The No. 1 overall pick, playing in just his ninth NBA game and returning after missing four games with a sprained left foot, knew exactly what to do. He tossed the ball toward the basket without any hesitation, making it a shooting foul that would give him three free throws.
He then sank all three with 3.5 seconds remaining to send the game to overtime, and the Wizards went on to get their second crazy victory over the Philadelphia 76ers in less than a month, winning 116-114 Tuesday night.
“I could tell how he was walking up to me that he was going to foul me,” Wall said. “Luckily I got the call and got to shoot three free throws.”
Nick Young hit an open 3-pointer with 7.6 seconds left in the extra period for the winning points, but it wouldn’t have been possible if not for a Holiday gift that Philadelphia coach Doug Collins didn’t want to give. It capped a collapse in which the 76ers blew a 15-point, fourth-quarter lead.
“All we had to do was just finish out the game, and we just made critical mistakes again. That’s just crushing us. That’s been the story of our whole first 14 games of the season,” Collins said. “You’ve got to be careful because when a guy is running at you with the ball like that, you’ve got to know when he sees you coming that he’s going to pick up and launch it.”
Holiday didn’t have much to say in his defense.
“I didn’t think he was shooting the 3,” Holiday said. “I honestly thought he was going to the basket. I really wasn’t trying to foul him. I just got my arm in there and he went up. It was a foul.”
It was the second time in November that the Wizards beat the 76ers after taking the game to overtime by scoring three incredible points just before the buzzer. Cartier Martin’s desperation 3-pointer with 0.3 seconds left sent the game to the extra period in the Wizards‘ 116-115 win on Nov. 2.
“I’m sure you want to keep all sharp objects away from Doug,” Washington coach Flip Saunders said. “Because he’s come here twice, he’s had two games where he’s been right there.”
The sequel involved a lot of trash talking and a player kicked out of the game. Elton Brand, who scored 19 points and was sorely missed down the stretch, was ejected with 3:32 left in regulation for a deliberate two-handed knockdown shove on JaVale McGee after a dunk. Brand’s action came shortly after Gilbert Arenas knocked over Holiday at the other end, but that contact was more innocuous. Brand said he wasn’t retaliating.
“I was just trying to stop the dunk,” Brand said. “He’s really athletic, quick to the rim, and I hit him under the arm. I definitely tried to foul him, but I didn’t want him to fall off it like that.”
The bad blood continued as Marreese Speights and Wall were given technicals for a chest-to-chest confrontation after a foul in the final half-minute of regulation.
“He walked up to me and said, ‘Don’t foul me like that,’” Wall said. “I wasn’t going to take it, so we got into a little altercation.”
Wall scored his 25 points after halftime following an 0-for-5 performance from the field in the first half. He entered the game midway through the first quarter, his first NBA appearance as a reserve, and said he was out of shape early on and needed an energy drink at halftime to keep going. He was cramping after the game.
Andre Iguodala, who had missed three straight games and five of seven with tendinitis in his right Achilles’ tendon, had 23 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists in 50 minutes for the 76ers. He was also cramping up down the stretch. Speights scored 12 of his 16 points after halftime, and Thaddeus Young scored 11 of his 15 after halftime.
The game was also the second meeting between the top two picks in this year’s draft, No. 1 Wall and No. 2 Evan Turner. The roles were reversed from the first meeting earlier this month, when Wall started and Turner came off the bench. Turner has since earned a spot in the 76ers’ starting lineup and scored only 11 points Tuesday — but eight came in the final minute of regulation and overtime.
However, Turner also missed two crucial free throws with 8.5 seconds left in regulation, giving Wall a chance to pull off the unusual three-point play that tied the score.
“That game was really pulling teeth,” Arenas said. “We didn’t come out and play well. We played well. We didn’t play hard. We played hard. It was one of those roller-coaster games.”
Notes: Wizards F Al Thornton left in the first half with a sprained left ankle and didn’t return. … A moment of silence was held on the eve of the first anniversary of the death of longtime Wizards owner Abe Pollin. … The Wizards are 5-2 at home, but 0-6 on the road.